Going native in the garden

I arrived steeled for a riot, boots laced up, garden gloves on and wheeled crate at my side. I’ve heard about these native plant sales. The quantities are so limited

Iris douglasiana gone wild at Strawberry Peak! (Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

Iris douglasiana gone wild at Strawberry Peak! (Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

that ordinarily mild people, it is said, go wild at them. Turn your back, and there go all four of the Rosa californica you’ve hankered for years to adopt. Turn too fast, and get whacked in the thigh with a two-quart nursery pot of Iris douglasiana.

You can’t just go out in the national forest and dig up these things. It’s illegal. What grows in the forest stays in the forest. It is not for domestication.

Thirty-five dollars later, I proudly owned a California wild rose, a Humboldt lily and a matilija poppy that will produce platter-size flowers resembling fried eggs. All will tuck into the new garden at the top of my property.

My neighbor has made grand plans for my garden there, which she sees from her kitchen window. The plans involve rows of lavender inspired by photos of Provence and the so-called “old” roses that Napoleon and Josephine grew at Malmaison. The perfume would satiate us and the beauty would stun us. But the garden would not be wild.

My imagination, especially now in the drought, crowds my garden with a riot of orange-tinged blanket flowers, fiery penstemons, golden yarrow and blue California lilacs. I want a fence made of sunflowers and hollyhocks and a pergola made of pallets with a bamboo shade. Everything would look More

Outdoor solutions right under your nose!

Cheap, effective and already on hand: Problem-solvers don’t get any better than these. Add some creativity, and you’ve got winners for outdoor life.

Watering can even has a lovely string for hanging when not in use.

Watering can even has a lovely string for hanging when not in use.

Cat litter jug watering can

I looked around one day and realized that I had amassed a ridiculous number of plastic cat litter jugs. Surely they have more than one life.

Aha! A watering can! To transform the jug, I screwed on the cap, then drilled 3/8-inch holes through it with my trusty old Black & Decker electric hand drill. All the holes were placed on the outside half of the cap, the portion where water would hit first when the jug was tipped.

The new watering can didn’t need decoration, but I jazzed it up with patterned duct tape. On trial runs using gray water from the shower, it worked so much better than hitting a plant with a big ol’ glug out of an uncapped jug. (Confession: I made a bunch of these, decorated them with duct tape and tried selling them for $1 each at a flea market. A lot of people looked, but nobody bought. The darned thing is so simple, anybody could make one and use that $1 to buy herself something pretty!)

Is that a skirt or a sun shade?

Imagine you are crossing the searing sand, no trees in sight, your skin stinging under the sun. It’s easy to picture when you’re at the beach – and the beach is the perfect spot for assembling one of the simplest yet most romantic ways More

How dry I am, how wet I’ll be …

California’s drought isn’t a secret. It’s been up in lights on freeway billboards. Water agencies have tucked pleas to cut back into envelopes with bills. Sun and grass

There’s no rain in sight. Some people looking ahead to winter are even predicting a “dry El Niño,” whatever that means. If ever there were a time to put your water to work, it’s now.

I started just before the pleas and billboards. I wanted to see how much fortitude it would take and how much water could be saved.

Warning: I’ve done some things that are normal and a few that are patently weird, but they all add up to water savings – a lot.

California has run ahead of lots of other states in household water conservation. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average More

Photos for a lazy afternoon

Baby blue eyes

Baby blue eyes arrives early.

Yawn, stretch and treat yourself well today. Gather your strength for Monday. The world is beautiful.

Red columbines 2

Red columbines en masse


Iggy Lizardo ready for his close-up.

It’s especially beautiful right now at Heaps Peak Arboretum, located on the uphill side of California Highway 18, our local version of the Ice Road Truckers’ Freefall Freeway, between Skyforest and Running Springs. The Rim of the World Interpretive Association, a group of local volunteers, improves and maintains the arboretum as a showcase for mountain trees, shrubs, wildflowers and small wildlife (sometimes big wildlife, too).

This makes it a great place for mountain people to take their visitors and to learn what the heck More

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June 2023